From an ice fisherman’s perspective, this winter’s weather has been, for the most part, worse than wind flags. But now comes February, the month of higher suns, longer days, and ice-fishing derbies. With that in mind, anglers addicted to fishing on frozen water are restocking their pack baskets, putting an edge on their augers, and checking their traps in anticipation of three derbies that have become seasonal events hereabouts.
First off, Brewer Lake and Field’s Pond are the fishing grounds for the Orrington Rod and Gun Club’s annual derby set for Feb. 7-8. Baits can be rigged from dawn to dusk with the hopes of landing cash prizes of $25, $15, and $10, respectively, for the largest salmon, white perch, and pickerel put on ice. All fish must be registered at Snow’s Corner Mobil Station, on Route 15 in Orrington.
Among the many Shore Prize drawings are: 150 gallons of heating oil, a pair of snowshoes, pack basket, two hours of shooting time at Archers Edge in Holden, $20 cash, and a Go-Kart. Additionally, Big Ears Bait Shop on Center Drive in Orrington will redeem derby tickets with a dozen free bait. Tickets are $2 each – good for both derby days and Shore Prize eligibility – and can be purchased at Pickard’s Sport Shop, Big Ears Bait Shop, Old Town Trading Post, Snow’s Corner Mobil, or by contacting Jim Goody, 825-3987, or Paul Goody, 825-4125.
An added feature of this year’s derby – and it’s sure to be busier than a beer tent at a company picnic – is the Grub Wagon that will be anchored at the Brewer Lake boat landing. Operated by Shawn Donovan, a chef at Miller’s Restaurant in Bangor, the wagon will offer five hot meals and, of course, the always appreciated coffee and doughnuts. Allowing that Donovan is also the “head guide” of Loon Bay Kayaking in Trenton, it’s obvious that he’s as adept with paddles as he is with pots and pans.
Come Feb. 14-15, flags will fly at the 36th annual Schoodic Lake Ice Fishing Derby. Sponsored by the Milo Fire Department, the “Schoodic Derby,” which includes Ebeemee and Seboeis lakes, is truly an outstanding midwinter event. And in case you haven’t noticed, both derby days are state “Fish Free Days,” which means a fishing license isn’t required. In addition to cash awards in the fish categories, derby ticket holders could win valuable prizes via the following raffles: Grand Prize, a 1998 Arctic Cat Jag 340 snowmobile; Shore Prizes, total worth $8,000; Registered Fish Drawing, more than $2,500 worth of prizes; Bonus Drawing, 45 items totaling more than $1,500.
To keep a tight line on the fish categories: first, second, and third prizes of $100, $50, $25, respectively, will be awarded in each of the salmon, trout, and togue categories. A few wallets also will be fattened in the cusk, white perch, and pickerel categories, which offer first and second prizes of $50 and $20 each. However, cusk less than 16 inches long will not be registered. The angler who lands the Odd Fish prize will win $30. Likewise, the boy and girl, 16 years old or younger, registering the largest fish will land $50 in savings bonds.
In all, the Schoodic Derby offers 88 prizes totaling $13,000-plus. Small wonder the event has remained “a keeper” for so long. Tickets are $1 each, for prize drawings only; or $5 per book, which includes derby entry fee, six Shore Prize tickets, and one Bonus Drawing ticket. If you can’t scare up a ticket in a Piscataquis County coffee shop, sports shop, filling station, or convenience store, ring the “alarm” at the Milo Fire Department. The derby starts at 12:01 a.m., Feb. 14, for cusk only. Weigh-in stations are the Lakeview Fire Station and Knights Landing in Brownville. Fish must be registered before 5 p.m. each day. Derby proceeds will benefit the Milo Fire Department, civic organizations, and local charities.
If you want to try your luck in the 11th annual Ice Fishing Derby sponsored by the Air National Guard’s MAINEiacs Charities, Feb. 21, is the date to circle on your calendar. Fishing time is 6 a.m.-5 p.m. on lakes and ponds within the boundaries of Hancock County. Undoubtedly one of the area’s most popular winter events, the derby has four regular Fish Divisions – salmon, brook trout, togue, pickerel – with three prizes for fish registered in each division: first prize, $200 gift certificate; second prize, Mora ice drill; third prize, large pack basket with harness. The special Brown Trout Division guarantees a $100 gift certificate to the angler who registers the biggest “brown.” All fish must be registered and weighed at Nicolin General Store on Route 1-A in Ellsworth.
Shore Prize drawings? For sure. Ten in all, and all valuable and useful to people who enjoy and appreciate all Maine’s seasons. The grand prize in the Derby Sweepstakes is an Old Town Discovery canoe; runners-up will head home with a gun rack, gun case, Coleman lantern.
Tickets are $1 each or $3. The former is for Shore Prize drawings only, the latter for fishing and entry in the Derby Sweepstakes drawings. And if you can’t find a ticket between Burr’s Market in Costigan and Grindle’s Store in Southwest Harbor, you’re not looking very hard. Derby proceeds will benefit ANG MAINEiacs Charities.
There you have it, Sport. If you’re looking to participate in a February ice-fishing derby, take your pick. Whether you watch your traps from a shack as steamy as a sauna or from a sunny, pine-scented shore makes no difference. Either way, it’s better than sitting home and watching the current “Slick Willie” soap opera.
Tom Hennessey’s column can be accessed on the BDN internet page at: www.bangornews.com.